WW2 Research: Merchant Ships

Discussion in 'The War at Sea' started by Alice Anderson, Sep 10, 2021.

  1. Alice Anderson

    Alice Anderson New Member

    I am researching my grandfathers WW2 military history, Robert Park Gordon Reid 1912-1994. He served with the 1st & 2nd regiment maritime Royal Artillery and always told us he was a gunner on the merchant ships.
    I have located his tracer card and maritime card, which list the ships he was onboard during the war. I have downloaded most of the ships movement cards from the National Archives but these have limited information.
    I would really like to understand more about what these ships were doing during the war...what convoys they were involved in? were they involved in active battles? are there photographs of these ships?
    The movement card for Chant 68 during the time my grandfather was onboard says "On special service 24.05.1944". Is there anyway to find out what this special service was?
    Also, does anyone know what R Z G Z H stand for?

    I would appreciate any advice as to where i might be able to find this information.

    Many thanks
    Alice Maritime tracer card RPGR cropped 1.jpg Maritime tracer card RPGR cropped 2.jpg Tracer Card.jpg
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  2. CL1

    CL1 116th LAA and 92nd (Loyals) LAA,Royal Artillery Patron

    Alice welcome to the forum
    We have excellent Merchant Navy/Merchant Vessels experts on the forum who will be along shortly to advise you further.

    Alice Anderson likes this.
  3. Temujin

    Temujin Member

    Welcome Alice, their are all sorts of websites that can help you with this (including Google for ship pictures)

    For example, I took just one ship from the list, the “Sourabaya”……and info I found within a couple of minutes using Google and websites (such as Convoyweb and uboat.net) etc

    Arnold Hague convoy database - ON convoys
    Sourabaya (British Whale factory ship) - Ships hit by German U-boats during WWII - uboat.net
    Convoy ON 18 - warsailors.com

    Getting this info took a little “playing around” with the various sites, such as Convoyweb……I put in the “departure port” (where he “joined” the ship)…..then I put the date he joined and the filter (plus or minus 5 days)….and hit search, then looked for the ship name, found it and discovered Convoy ON18, sailed on the approx date he joined, and this convoy went to North America (the ship went to New York) and that matched the info on his card (says he left the ship in Halifax??)

    So, you can then “search” the various ships, see if they were in Convoys or sailed as independents etc etc and build up a history of each ship that he was assigned to.

    You said you have all the individual ship movement cards, which also helps you find the right convoy, dates etc

    Other members may give you more sites to utilize in your search for info


    Photo of the Sourabaya


    From Convoyweb

    Last edited: Sep 10, 2021
  4. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron


    Chant 68 is of interest to me. I made a study of ships and craft used in the Normandy landings. The Chants were specially built small tankers which could carry either petrol in Jerrycans or petrol in bulk. They were prefabricated for rapid construction and could be beached for unloading. The dates given would be right for the Normany supply operation.

    I will see if I can find photos and details in my untidy files.

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  5. Trux

    Trux 21 AG Patron

    This is Chant 2.

    Chant 2.jpg

    Two unidentified Chants.


    That did not take long. My files cannot be that untidy.

  6. Tony56

    Tony56 Member Patron

    As indicated on the cards and confirmed by his service number, 2879983, he enlisted with the Gordon Highlanders and spent a short period of time, 31/1/40 to 10/5/41, with them.
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  7. Hugh MacLean

    Hugh MacLean Senior Member

    Hello Alice and welcome,
    Your grandfather was a D.E.M.S. gunner assigned to Merchant Navy defensive armament. The Royal Navy and army supplied these gunners and MN seamen would assist.
    It is good to see you have his maritime card which gives a good listing on his sea service. Army D.E.M.S. are difficult to research unless you have this card. Did it come with his service record or did you aquire it elsewhere?

    RZGZH is a military draft code that really doesn't mean anything to an individual. In this case it was the letters assigned to a draft aboard a ship from Methil to Alexandria we have dates on the cards so it may help us. He was obviously going to the ME theatre for D.E.M.S. service at Port Said.

    "On special service 24.05.1944" refers to the Normandy Campaign - service prior to, at or beyond 'D' Day.
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2021
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  8. Roy Martin

    Roy Martin Senior Member

    Poor soul Reina del Pacifico to Chant 68 - at least the Chant was new when he joined her. I can't see any reference to her being at Normandy, but she surely must have been. I have a photo of the Reina del and, subject to checking it is the right one, the Kattegat or sister. Will post shortly
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  9. Roy Martin

    Roy Martin Senior Member

    Herewith Reina del Pacifico in unhappy circumstances and a sister ship of the Kattegat, which was Norwegian Reina del Pacifico.jpg la pampa 1938.gif
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  10. Hugh MacLean

    Hugh MacLean Senior Member

    Hi Roy,
    I don't think he served on the Norwegian KATTEGAT as it is scored out on the card he appears to have joined another Norwegian tanker KALDFONN for convoy HX 159 (Halifax N.S - Liverpool).

    Requisitioned Auxiliary - Kaldfonn

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  11. Roy Martin

    Roy Martin Senior Member

    The Chants in Mike's photo are 61 and 69, Chant 61 capsized and was sunk off Normandy.
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2021
  12. Roy Martin

    Roy Martin Senior Member

    Thanks Hugh, I hadn't picked that up. Roy
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  13. Hugh MacLean

    Hugh MacLean Senior Member

    Seems he had a lucky escape (ss GREENLAND). He leaves her in August 1941 at Leith and she is sunk on 6 December 1941 by mine. There were nine casualties including the Royal Naval D.E.M.S. gunner.
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  14. Roy Martin

    Roy Martin Senior Member

    Oh Dear I now see that Chant 69 also capsized off Nomandy - not a lucky pair.
    Alice Anderson likes this.
  15. Hugh MacLean

    Hugh MacLean Senior Member

  16. Alice Anderson

    Alice Anderson New Member

    Thank you all so much for all the information, links, photos etc. I am going to be able to make a great start to my research now but there is so much to learn!

    I did apply for my grandfathers military records from the MOD pre-covid but have unfortunately not received them as yet due to delays with covid. I contacted the Royal Artillery museum a few months ago and they provided me with a contact at Restore, through the Royal Navy, on the off chance they might have a maritime card for my grandfather and they did indeed. I received it last week!!

    We are all incredibly proud of my grandfathers military service and although he did not speak much about the war, there was no doubt he was deeply affected by it for the remainder of his life unfortunately. I am surprised to learn he was likely involved in some way with the Normandy Campaign, it was not something he ever mentioned to the family!

    Thank you all once again, its very much appreciated. I will be sure to ask again if i come across any more questions during my research.
    Best wishes
  17. Temujin

    Temujin Member

    Alice Anderson likes this.
  18. Hi Alice,

    I see your grandfather came home on HMS Begum. My father, Edward “Andy” Anderson, also a DEMS/MRA gunner, shared the same experience. Here’s an extract about his journey home from an account of his war experiences. I compiled it from much research on the web sites described above, visits to the National Archives and letters he wrote home.

    Good luck with your research.


    Chris Anderson

    Attached Files:

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